With the outbreak of World War Two, the Army installation then known as Pine Camp expanded, to become Camp Drum and eventually Fort Drum today. In the process, it swallowed up several villages, including their cemeteries. Fort Drum researchers have created a database and new maps that will help family members of those buried at the cemeteries to find and visit their loved ones' gravesites, both in person and online.
Thirteen historic cemeteries are located on Fort Drum. Some of those are still accessible by the public, but some are harder to reach and only available for visits on Memorial Day.
Laurie Rush is cultural resources manager at Fort Drum. She says many of the people buried there are not forgotten.
"We have received requests from all over the U.S. and even Canada, and it's quite often from families who were displaced in the early 1940s and now are very interested in coming back to that piece of their family history," Rush said.
Intern Michael Sprowles spent the last year and a half painstakingly documenting gravesites, including their locations and inscriptions, for inclusion in the new database. He says his work will also facilitate better care of the cemeteries.
"Because in addition to having all the information on the stones, they're also geo-referenced, so we can also bring up what stones in the cemeteries need the most attention," he said. "So it's really allowing us to care for the stones easier and relay the information to the public a lot easier."
Sprowles says the most interesting thing about the cemeteries project was the glimpse it gave him into local history.
"Really being able to see how the people of the area lived at this certain time. I mean, cemeteries are very personal – you can see how people related to one another, infants that passed away, you know, an occasional mother-in-law buried next to the husband after he died. So it's really interesting to be able to see just the lives of the people that had lived here," Sprowles said.
The cemeteries database is available from Fort Drum's website. And the cultural resources office can also arrange visits to the cemeteries.